"Big data" is the colloquial term for a relatively new discipline that analyzes, extracts, and creates new information from data sets that are too large or complex to be understood on their own.
Big data is good news for genealogists. Combining multiple data sets––like maps and census––lends insight into historical events and socio-economic trends that affected our ancestors. And that helps us all make sense of the past. Let's look at some examples.
DNA Painter is a chromosome mapping tool created by Jonny Perl. It helps genealogists visualize and compare DNA matches from different companies. By mapping segments of DNA to chromosomes, family history researchers are able to see which ancestors gave us which pieces of DNA, and thus how new matches are related. The big data in this is...YOU and your family.
The CENTENNIA Historical Atlas is a map that moves. This desktop app provides an atlas illustrating the history of Europe and the Middle East from the 11th century through the early 21st century.
A dynamic, animated historical atlas, it includes over 9,000 border changes. Users can zoom in and out, and move forward and backward in time. This app also links to a database of events and explanatory text.
Never the easiest of sites to navigate, Chronicling America users benefitbecause it's easier to access to historic newspapers in their collections. In addition to searching by place and date, users can also search by publication language (Spanish, German, Chineses, Swedish, Italian, French) and by publication frequency.
A final nod to Big Data for this issue. The image above is from one of my favorite movies, Desk Set (1957), where librarian Katharine Hepburn and her staff at a tv network fear layoffs with the advent of automation.
Instead they figure out search strategies for that enormous mainframe (EMERAC in the movie; ENIAC in real life) that yield better results than those MIT-educated inventors ever envisioned. Librarians FTW!
Genealogists are sure to marvel when they feed a few 3x5 cards into the machine and claim a whole book has been added to the "electronic brain."
Looking for new ways to find archives, maps, newspapers, and books and other genealogy resources?